Consumer discovers a problem with his credit card provider a few years later

Time limits Consumer Credit

Tony took out a credit card in 2012.  He experienced some financial difficulty a few years later and struggled to keep up with his repayments. He saw reports on social media about irresponsible lending and thought this might apply to him.

What happened

Tony had taken out a credit card in 2012 with a limit of £1,600.

Tony had experienced some financial difficulty in 2016. He contacted his credit card provider while he was out of work to see what support it could provide at that time. 

Tony saw reports on social media that customers hadn’t always been responsibly lent to – and thinking back to when his credit card limit was approved, he thought this might apply to him. So, he complained soon afterwards in January 2021.

The credit card provider said that it thought Tony’s complaint about its lending decision in 2012 had been referred to it out of time.

To support this, it said this complaint had been referred to it more than six years after the lending decision or the “event date”.

It also said this complaint was also referred more than three years after Tony ought reasonably to have been made aware he had cause to complain, starting from when he had difficulty keeping up with his repayments.  

But the credit card provider added that, it had followed its process at the time by carrying out proportionate checks on his income and expenditure.

Unhappy with this outcome, Tony referred his complaint to our service. 

What we said

There are certain time-limit rules that apply to our service. One is when a complaint is referred to either the financial business or to our service more than six years after the event that’s being complained about, or if later, three years after the consumer knew or ought reasonably to have known they had cause to complain about that same issue.

In this case, Tony complained to his credit card provider in January 2021. So, this complaint was referred more than six years after the “event” – or the decision to lend in 2012 took place. 

We then thought about the three-year time limit.

Tony told us he only recently became of cause to complain when he read the reports on social media about irresponsible lending. We thought that was plausible based on his circumstances and what he’d said.

So we next considered when he “ought reasonably” to have been aware of having cause to complain – and whether he’d complained more than three years after that.

We didn’t think that Tony’s difficulty meeting his repayments ought to have been enough, on its own, to give him cause to think his credit card provider hadn’t followed its process when deciding to lend to him.

Tony told us he thought that it was his change of circumstances in 2016 that had led to him missing his payments, rather than anything the credit card provider had done – and that he took steps to contact his credit card provider to see what support was available at that time.

Again, we thought that was plausible. We hadn’t seen anything else to suggest Tony ought to have been aware of cause to complain more than three years before he did complain.

So, in this scenario, we thought that the complaint had been made within the six and three year time limits, so we could investigate.